This interview features Connor Wheaton, Kalamazoo College ’16.
Annie Evans: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Connor Wheaton: Okay, well, my name is Connor Wheaton. I’m a junior at Kalamazoo College and I’m a Theatre and Psychology double major, and I specifically work in mask-making. So I make masks specific to a certain client, however they want it — it can be made out of paper, leather, neoprene …
It’s not just theatre masks. It can be for any event where someone wants to wear a mask, like Halloween or a masquerade.
AE: What made you decide to double major in psychology and theatre?
CW: Well, I always loved psychology. I grew up doing theatre, but what really hit it for me was when I was in high school and I took a psych class. It came really easily to me. I liked the material, it was really interesting.
AE: Do you find that your work in psychology informs your work in theatre?
CW: Oh, definitely. I mean, at the most basic level, there’s psychological realism in method acting, and a lot of what you’re trying to convey, especially with mask work, you have to know how emotions are conveyed. So you can understand how people perceive a face or perceive something — you’ve got a basis for a mask. If you want someone to be happy, you generally stay away from large, hard lines. If you want to intimidate someone with a mask, you use hard, large, angled lines and geometric shapes.
AE: Where are you interning as part of New York Arts Program?
CW: I started off with a mask-maker in Chelsea, Stanley Allan Sherman, but he really wanted some other skills that I didn’t have (mostly computer work), so I found a new internship at the New Light Theater Project, and now I’m an Assistant Stage Manager and Props Master.
AE: What have you been learning so far?
CW: This has been sort of New York-specific, but how to walk fast and not be angry at people walking slowly in front of me. And time budgeting — but a lot of it is just how to work and live in a professional environment where you’re not really taking classes. You don’t have that safety bubble of school. I just call it I’m learning #realworldproblems.
AE: Is there anything that you’ve learned here that took you by surprise?
CW: Well, I learned I was more prepared for professional theatre than I thought I was.
AE: Is that thanks to Kalamazoo?
CW: Yeah. I think that’s thanks to Kalamazoo, but I also think it’s thanks to just my willingness to work. Also with Kalamazoo, I had to stay in contact with everyone all the time, or else I would miss something. And that’s my biggest advice I’d give for anyone coming here: always have your phone with you, and be willing to look up emails right away.
AE: What made you find and decide to do this program?
CW: I found it because Kalamazoo really highly advertises this program, and I’ve always wanted to come to New York. It’s sorta been my dream. What made me really want to do it is that this is the place where theatre really happens. It’s this or London, and I’d rather go here for one portion of the year, then going on study abroad to somewhere I wouldn’t be as happy.
AE: So have you found you like New York?
CW: Oh, I love New York. I love how insane, crazy, and hectic everything is. And I just love that big-city feeling, like you’re just one person in a city with 8.25 million people.
AE: What are you grateful for with this residence?
CW: I’m grateful that we have so many people with different passions in different fields because all the people here are really knowledgeable about their particular field of study. And it’s really great to just sit down and talk with someone about artistic viewpoints and learn something you’ve never heard of before.
AE: How about in the city?
CW: I’m grateful that in this city you can find anything. Being a Props Master, it’s all a game of what can you buy and what can you make — here there’s a shop for anything you could ever want, as long as you’re willing to look and run around the city for it.
AE: Have you had to run around a lot for materials?
CW: Yeah, I’ve had to find random places for weird things like branches in the Flower District. And just looking around all the weird antique shops and Chinatown just to find interesting things, something that could be useful.
AE: Here’s a Freebie.
CW: For students looking to do this program, I would suggest hitting the ground running and just go and do things. Go and do things. You’re in one of the greatest cities on Earth with some of the greatest museums and works of art. Just go out and explore. Because you’ll regret more sitting in your room watching Netflix than you’ll regret going to a museum or going to a show.